Archive for the 'Ageing' Category

Theorising and understanding grandparents: why now?

Evolving demographic, economic and social contexts across the globe are creating diverse societies. As a result, grandparenting has become a more commonly experienced and important familial role and one that is more varied and distinctive than it was 50 years ago.  Within these contexts individuals are doing grandparenting in very different ways. These doing’s (or the practices of grandparenting) are strongly influenced by global trends, cultural norms and welfare policies but are also cross cut by individual circumstances and social inequalities including gender, age, martial status, class and access to material resources.

Contemporary Grandparenting, a new book from The Policy Press, explores and emphasizes the interconnectedness of these social-cultural structures and norms, and the practices of grandparents. Some of these trends and responses are explored below:

Ageing and fertility

Increasing mortality and decreasing fertility rates characterize contemporary demographics in both the West and developing nations to varying extents, creating more dynamic and variable family relationships and care patterns.  Media commentators have a tendency to interpret these changes as being about ageing population crises. China, for example faces what Branigan defines as a ‘timebomb’; it is ageing, and at the same time there are reportedly fewer younger people who are able to or willing to care for their elderly family members.  In the UK, this crisis has been described as a significant contemporary economic threat.

However, children and grandchildren have also been found to rely upon their older and ageing grandparents for financial support and other informal forms of care. Part One of Contemporary Grandparenting, nuances this debate by revealing that grandparents are central to supporting the increased participation of women in the workplace, but that this is strongly influenced by welfare policy contexts, which must also be taken into consideration.

Changing ‘family’ structures

‘Family’ is changing; the prevalence of marriage breakdown, divorce and separation, (considered particularly problematic in the UK, the US and parts of Northern Europe, but less so in China and Asia and some southern parts of Europe) has differing implications for how intergenerational relationships are negotiated and interpreted.

The impact of divorce also has varying outcomes in relation to grandparenting; grandparents have been found to cause additional damage in situations of divorce, while others suggest they should have greater rights in being able to adopt grandchildren. Timonen and Doyles’ chapter, in Part Two of the book particularly nuances these arguments by revealing that grandparents make active choices about their level of involvement in the lives of their children and grandchildren and that this does not always sit comfortably with wider welfare contexts.

Global Trends

As well as increasing the importance of grandparenting in family contexts, the authors are keen to acknowledge the role of globalization in altering the family relationships that grandparenting is embedded in. As well as demographic change, societies are characterized by increased geographical mobility, changing trends in paid employment (especially including women’s participation in the labour force) and the increased uptake of communication technologies. Taken together, these trends are altering the ways in which individuals respond to their role and identities as grandparents, as several of the chapters explore.

Contemporary Grandparenting

A significant message of this essential edited collection is that grandparents often act with agency to negotiate increasingly dynamic intergenerational relationships in changing familial and social structures, playing a major role in the provision of care, maintaining and establishing well being and supporting changing families. Speaking to an interdisciplinary audience, this collection significantly brings grandparents into debates about family, welfare state, population ageing and identities.

Anna Tarrant, Contributor to Contemporary Grandparenting
Research Associate in the Faculty of Health and Social Care at the Open University.

Fertility decline and population ageing

Yesterday’s Guardian (1st February 2010) included an interesting feature on the consequences of rapidly falling fertility rates. The tone was highly apocalyptic, peppered with references to “population crash”, “baby famine” and a “demographic abyss”. Referring to a near-derelict town in former Eastern Germany, the article suggested that current population trends may spell a similar future for much of the developed world as well as some developing countries. It would seem that we face a future world where children will be found in museums rather than schools. This will be a world largely populated by older people –or as the Guardian puts it in a surprising lapse of political correctness, “The rise of the wrinklies”. Apparently, this will not all be bad news. Even as we are condemned to live in a crumbling economic wasteland, our advanced years will make us “wiser, and greener too”.

This combination of exaggeration, stereotyping and contradiction is not unusual in media commentary on fertility decline and population ageing. There is a substantial and growing body of academic evidence demonstrating that the consequences of population change are highly nuanced and strongly influenced by policy choices. Likewise, experiences of later life are very diverse, eschewing stereotypes. Rather than grapple with these complex issues, journalists are more inclined to simpler sensationalist predictions, such as those found in Peter Petersen’s Grey Dawn or Phillip Longman’s The Empty Cradle. Just as with the old scare stories of population “time bombs”, there is an urgent need for more measured and less clichéd reporting and analysis.

Peter Lloyd-Sherlock
Professor of Social Policy and International Development in the School of International Development, University of East Anglia, UK
Population ageing and international development: From generalisation to evidence is now available with 25% discount.

Answers to Malcolm Dean’s quiz

Answers to Malcolm Dean’s social policy and social and demographic trends quiz (posted on November 3rd 2009) are now available below. How did you do?

1. One in five people in the UK are over 60. What was the ratio in 1900?
Answer: 1 in 25

2a. What proportion of women retiring in 2006 were eligible for a full state pension?; 2b. And for men?
Answer: Only 30% of women; 85% of men.

3. There were only 100 centenarians in the UK in 1909.
a. How many were there in 1959?; b. How many in 2009?; c. And how many are projected for 2029?
Answer: 270 in 1959; 12,000 in 2009; 48,000 projected for 2029

4. How much did life expectancy increase per decade in the last century?
Answer: By 2 years every decade.

5. What were the Turner Commission’s three tough options for improving pensions? Which one did they choose?
Answer: In Turner’s interim report the options were: higher taxes; longer working life; increased savings. They chose a combination of all three in the final report.

6. In what way was the Equality and Human Rights Commission, set up in 2007, perpetuating inequalities between the six fields — race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion, age — when it was monitoring discrimination?
Answer: Initially, in 2007, the EHRC could, where it found discrimination, intervene not just in employment but also in the provision of goods, facilities and services in the first five fields of its remit, but only with employment in respect of age. It was still legally permissible for a pub landlord to refuse an older person a drink on the grounds of age. The 2009 Equality Bill is set to end this anomaly.

7. The UK is still debating whether to abolish a statutory retirement age. Name three other countries which have already done so?
Answer: US in 1967; Ireland in 1998; and Denmark in 2004.

8. Who was Margaret Panting?
Answer: Margaret Panting died in almost identical circumstances to Victoria Climbié, an 8-year old child, who died in 2000 from severe abuse, neglect and multiple injuries inflicted by her great Aunt. Margaret Panting, aged 78, died one year later from similar severe abuse, neglect and multiple injuries within five weeks of being moved from sheltered accommodation to her son-in-law’s house. Victoria’s death generated 303 news and feature stories, 237 of them in the national press. Margaret’s death generated just 5 news stories, only 2 in the nationals.

9. To what extent did inequalities widen during the 18 years of Conservative rule between 1979 and 1997?
Answer: Inequality doubled between 1979 and 1997. In 1979 the post tax income of the richest tenth of the population was 5 times as much as the bottom tenth; by 1997 that ratio doubled to 10 times as much.

10. Means tested benefits increased under both the 1979-97 Conservative Government and between 1997-2009 under New Labour. But how did they differ?
Answer: They doubled under the 1979-1997 Conservative rule – from 17% to 34% of all benefits – which cut public expenditure. They rose under New Labour but increased public spending – through tax credits and pension credit – that were focused on those most in need.

11. Where does the UK come in the 30-member OECD league of developed states in terms of the proportion of the average (male) earnings that state pensions provide?
Answer: Britain is bottom of the OECD league table on state pensions which make up only 31% of average earnings compared to 39% in the US, 43% in Germany, 45% in Canada, 53% in France, 62% in Sweden, 68% in Italy, 80% in Denmark, 81% in Spain, and 88% in Netherlands.

12. When was there a golden age for older people in the UK?
Answer: According to Professor Pat Thane of London University Britain has never had a golden age for older people. She looked back three centuries and found the 1834 report of the Royal Commission on the Poor Laws noted how civilised nations “and even savages” recognised a duty of care for older people but “we believe that Britain is the only European nation where it (the duty) is neglected.”

Don’t forget, much fuller explanations can be found in Unequal Ageing, buy now for just £13.49 – 25% off the list price – at www.policypress.co.uk.

Win a copy of Unequal ageing

Enter Malcolm Dean’s social policy and social and demographic trends quiz to be in with a chance of winning one of five copies of Unequal ageing. Email your answers to tpp-marketing@bristol.ac.uk by 19th November 2009; winners will be contacted shortly after.

Simply answer the following 12 questions that focus on the effects of social and demographic trends on the well-being of older people. All answers will remain confidential.

1. One in five people in the UK are over 60. What was the ratio in 1900?

2a. What proportion of women retiring in 2006 were eligible for a full state pension?
2b. And for men?

3. There were only 100 centenarians in the UK in 1909.
a. How many were there in 1959?
b. How many in 2009?
c. And how many are projected for 2029?

4. How much did life expectancy increase per decade in the last century?

5. What were the Turner Commission’s three tough options for improving pensions? Which one did they choose?

6. In what way was the Equality and Human Rights Commission, set up in 2007, perpetuating inequalities between the six fields — race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion, age — when it was monitoring discrimination?

7. The UK is still debating whether to abolish a statutory retirement age. Name three other countries which have already done so?

8. Who was Margaret Panting?

9. To what extent did inequalities widen during the 18 years of Conservative rule between 1979 and 1997?

10. Means tested benefits increased under both the 1979-97 Conservative Government and between 1997-2009 under New Labour. But how did they differ?

11. Where does the UK come in the 30-member OECD league of developed states in terms of the proportion of the average (male) earnings that state pensions provide?

12. When was there a golden age for older people in the UK?

Visit The Policy Press website at www.policypress.co.uk


Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Twitter Updates

Archives


Blog

Publishing with a purpose

Public Administration Review

Public Administration Review is a professional journal dedicated to advancing theory and practice in public administration.

EUROPP

European Politics and Policy

Urban Studies Journal

Publishing with a purpose

INLOGOV Blog

Official Blog of the Institute of Local Government Studies, University of Birmingham

JOURNAL OF PUBLIC POLICY

The official blog of the Journal of Public Policy

Social Europe Journal

debating progressive politics in Europe and beyond

OUPblog

Publishing with a purpose

PolicyBristol Hub

Publishing with a purpose

Publishing with a purpose

Democratic Audit UK

Publishing with a purpose

Path to the Possible

Democracy toward the Horizon

finding development

The views depicted here are my own, do not represent the views of anyone/anything else, and cannot be reproduced in whole or in part without my express written consent.

The Policy Press Blog

Publishing with a purpose

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 4,051 other followers